Philadelphia 76ers: Doc Rivers and the playoff bench rotation

The Philadelphia 76ers are likely going to finish the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference, thus securing the top seed and homecourt advantage throughout the East playoffs. The Sixers have reached this milestone due to strong play by the starters and a deep bench; a bench that in most games has played quality minutes without any starters accompanying them on the floor. That experiment has been understandable at points in the regular season, but is inexcusable in the postseason.

Doc Rivers obviously agrees, right? Wrong. After the team’s victory over Atlanta two weeks ago, Doc was asked about his all bench lineups in the playoffs. From FanNation:

“I’m going to stay with what we have. That doesn’t mean we won’t, but this is a group that has proven that they can do that now. There may be a mixture more, where there’s always a starter with that group, but for the most part, I’m not skipping this group on the floor,” said Rivers.

Doc even doubled down on this position a couple days ago.

The Sixers’ frequent all-bench lineups will not translate well to the playoffs.

The point to be made is that even though the bench has performed well throughout the season, they are not required to get minutes in the playoffs. This is not youth basketball where minutes need to be evenly distributed. Strong bench play is not as good as starter play and the starters can and should play increased minutes throughout the postseason. Playoff games can be won and lost in a few minutes of misjudged lineups. The Sixers even have direct experience with this in the past with Greg Monroe essentially losing a game in just one minute of playing time.

Doc has been known for using deep benches, especially in Boston where his 2008 Championship Celtics team had a consistent 10 player rotation throughout the postseason. The difference is that in the quote above, Doc implied their would be playoff time given to lineups where no starters were on the floor at points. That is asinine. Do you think the Brooklyn Nets will have any minutes in the playoffs where Harden, Durant and Kyrie are all on the bench if they are healthy? Hell no, because that is not a formula for success.

The Sixers’ starting lineup is in the discussion for the best in the league and their playing time is what will win this franchise an NBA Championship. Stashing them all on the bench together for periods of time, no matter how long, is irresponsible and will cost this team games against good teams in the playoffs. Here’s to hoping Doc is just saying those things to try to motivate his young players, but if not his assistant coaches need to get in his ear and help him realize the err of his ways.